Disappointment in love leads to unexpected fulfilment for a young teacher in rural Italy in Giorgia Cecere’s bland helming debut, “The First Assignment.” Set in 1953 Puglia, the pic is just about saved by the appealing presence of rising star Isabella Ragonese (“Our Life”), though even she’s unable to generate chemistry with her expressionless co-stars. Playing it safe at every turn, Cecere turns in the kind of unexceptional drama, light and only mildly entertaining, that fills up satcast movie channels condescendingly geared toward women.
Novice teacher Nena (Ragonese) faces her first placement bravely, confident her love for aristocratic bore Francesco (Alberto Boll, blank) will transcend class and distance. She’s lonely in the village where she’s been assigned, and the students are peasant scamps, but she can cope as long as she knows wedding bells will chime. Then Francesco dumps her for a society dame, and Nena seeks solace by sleeping with local workman Giovanni (Francesco Chiarello, slightly less blank). The villagers notice, and she’s forced to marry the handyman. Artificial dialogue isn’t helped by a preponderance of midrange shots that dull the visuals, making the film unexciting and uninvolving.